“Lazaretto” – Jack White / “Hebrews” – Say Anything

Thanks to the modern marvel known as the internet, Jack White’s new album, Lazaretto, has been streaming in its entirety for free on iTunes, while the same is true for Say Anything’s new record, Hebrews, over on Spotify. Since both albums will officially be released on the same day (Tuesday, June 10th), I figured I would do two reviews for the price of one! Enjoy.

-Joe MacPhee

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Jack White’s second solo effort takes everything fans loved about his first album, Blunderbuss, and bumps that up a couple notches. The recording quality is generally much richer, and the guitar riffs and solos are way grittier. With all the added “oomph,” it’s still pure Jack White at its core.

“Three Women” starts things off with funky twelve bar blues and some nice “lawdy-lawds.” “Lazaretto,” the album’s first confirmed single, is perhaps the most diverse track on the whole album. The vicious guitar solo and heavy breakdown towards the middle of the track are standard Jack White, but he delivers a lyrical performance that verges on hip-hop. A dueling violins solo directly following the breakdown adds some peculiarity, but it’s definitely an interesting way to keep the song flowing. Other stand-out tracks are the super-fuzz instrumental, “High Ball Stepper,” the bar rock ‘n roller, “Just One Drink,” and “That Black Bat Licorice” (my personal favorite), which conjures up thoughts of “I Cut Like A Buffalo” and other tracks from one of White’s other bands, The Dead Weather.

The songs on Lazaretto are incredibly varied, and they each rip in their own way. A few tunes on the record, like “Temporary Ground” and “Entitlement,” are straight country songs, and as much as I know that Jack White grew up on classic blues and folk records, I feel that these are the weakest couple of songs on Lazaretto. Just my own personal bias. Nevertheless, Lazaretto is certainly a step up from Blunderbuss. It’s good to see that Jack’s still on his upward spiral.

Recommended Jams: Lazaretto, Just One Drink, That Black Bat Licorice, Three Women

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It is undeniable that Hebrews is very ambitious, even for a band like Say Anything. First of all, the album doesn’t feature a single guitar part. Just bass, drums, synth, and strings. Then there’s the fact that the record has just about as many guest vocalists as Say Anything’s earlier album, In Defense Of The Genre, with half as many songs. No doubt that there is a lot going on here.

“Six Six Six,” the first single off Hebrews, is the first song on the record that really gives you a feel for the synth/string sound featured on the remaining ten tracks. It’s got an airy feeling while still retaining the punk edge of earlier Say Anything hits. “Kall Me Kubrick” takes this same energy and converts it into a darker – yet somehow more dancey – rocker. Following that up is one of the album’s more interesting tunes, “My Greatest Fear Is Splendid.” Just the intro alone demonstrates that frontman Max Bemis hasn’t lost his goofy, cynical touch when it comes to songwriting (even after it was sorely missed on Say Anything’s last record, Anarchy, My Dear). Other tracks like “Hebrews” and “Nibble Nibble” most strongly continue the album’s synth/string punk sound, which by this point has started to sound very natural. “Nibble Nibble” features arguably the biggest, most surprising guest vocalist on Hebrews: Tom DeLonge of Blink-182 and Angels And Airwaves fame. Lyrically, Max Bemis sings about coming to terms with being both a husband and a father, religion, and self-doubt, and all the psychological ramifications that come along with these issues.

In truth, Hebrews has quickly become a very polarizing album for Say Anything. Fans have been claiming that the band has lost its edge based on what Max is singing about now as opposed to the content of, say, …Is A Real Boy, one of the band’s earliest albums. Not only that, but the complete absence of guitars on all twelve tracks has undoubtedly made some fans lose faith. Personally, I think the whole approach of Hebrews was very ambitious, and the end result is a record that is both very fresh and still incredibly catchy. Granted, it’s not a perfect album, but I think Max has certainly brought Say Anything back into the spotlight.

Recommended Jams: Six Six Six, Hebrews, Nibble Nibble, Kall Me Kubrick

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